A new center makes resources available to local entrepreneurs whose dream is to open a small business in Chicago.
The Small Business Center opens Thursday on the eighth floor of City Hall. It's designed to help businesses open faster and more efficiently with the help of Chicago experts. Small businesses make up nearly half of the city's jobs.
"What you'll be able to do here is get a one-stop shop for everything a small business needs," said Michael Negron, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's chief of policy. "The city staff here will serve as business owners' personal concierge, helping them through every step of the process, whether it's zoning, licensing, permitting, inspections."
They'll also have access to pro bono legal assistance and help developing a business plan and getting a bank loan.
The idea came from conversations with entrepreneurs and the challenges they face opening their own store or business. The center was based on a pilot program started nine months ago to help Chicago restaurants break through red tape to open more quickly.
Negron said the program helped about 200 restaurants get up and running, cutting wait times in half and streamlining the city inspection process.
Another one of small business owners' complaints is they get shuffled between city departments and staff in each area tells them something different.
The Small Business Center puts everything in one place, Negron said.
"You shouldn't have a PhD in government in order to figure out how to get your business going and you certainly shouldn't need to hire somebody to help you navigate that process."